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Viral photo showing ‘big butt starfish’ in a California aquarium is neither according to experts

A snap of a ‘starfish’ with a ‘big butt’ has sparked hilarity as it has been compared to SpongeBob’s Patrick.

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The shot appeared to feature a reddish-pink sea creature clinging to a blue wall with what looked like ‘giant glutes’. 

It was captioned ‘Saw a thicc a** starfish at the aquarium today’ by @babyshoujo, who shared it on Twitter on Sunday.    

Since then the image taken at Aquarium of the Pacific, in California, has been retweeted more than 173,000 times and has received of 639,000 likes as of Friday evening.

Online users wrote comedic replies to the user, who later admitted that she thought only two people would see the image. 

Some compared the sea creature to Patrick from TV show SpongeBob SquarePants after undergoing rigorous exercise routine.

Others paraphrased Sir Mixalot lyrics, ‘I like starfish butts and I cannot lie’ from the track ‘Baby Got Back.’

But while the internet joked, Nate Jaros, curator of fish and invertebrates at the aquarium had other thoughts.

He decided to clear-up misconceptions about the photograph once and for all, going onto explain that the image showed neither a ‘starfish’ nor a ‘butt’

The sea creature in question is actually a ‘sea star’, he told USAToday,  

‘Sea stars are actually invertebrates or animals without backbones and not fish despite people commonly referring to them as ‘starfish.

‘In this photo, the sea star is on a vertical rock face with two of its arms holding the rock and two arms hanging in a relaxed position. 

‘Sea stars sometimes relax their arms such as when they are eating.

‘Since the sea star is oriented vertically, gravity is causing its internal components to slump.’ 

Jaros was surprised that the sea star gained such popularity online. 

He added that sea stars are of major importance to the marine ecosystem, describing them as a ‘keystone species’ who others depend on.

Jaros explained that they have come under threat with water pollution increasing and water temperatures rising in the ocean. 

‘Two ways people can help sea stars in the wild this summer are by not purchasing dried – or dead – sea stars, which can sometimes be found in souvenir shops, and being respectful of them if you see them at the beach such as being mindful of where you step and not trying to move or pick up the animals,’ he added. 

Since the post went viral, doubts about the creature ranging from doubts about its species to it being photoshopped led many to critique the user online.

Leading user @babyshoujo to later respond that it was a ‘middle school level joke’ and further apologizing ‘I’m sorry that I’m “sexualizing starfish”‘ 

She wrote: ‘My sister was like “omg look” & I thought “haha looks like it has a butt”’ 

But some users have deemed the criticism unfair, with Alistair Higgins replying on Twitter: ‘The internet is a strange and often bewildering place.’ 

User @mustbehiggy wrote: ‘Seriously.. don’t make excuses for it. Anyone that is offended at a picture of a starfish deserves a slap.’

Another, @tsdrake wrote: ‘The burden of going viral. You have to explain everything.’

With one user, @Mrmoogle314, joking further: ‘I got my degree in marine biology and my final research was on starfish… I can scientifically confirm that this starfish be thicc af’

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